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Thanksgiving weekend, tough to get a res? Need some help for our mystery trip....

My wife and I are in charge of organizing this year's mystery trip. Five couples, and we plan the location and the itinerary. We bring everyone to the airport (Toronto), and off we go. I've been getting more proactive in the last week on planning our evenings as we approach the 30 day window for reservations, but when I do some clicking around at the popular spots using open table nothing seems available. I'm searching using 4 or 6 people, and if anything is available it's after 9. Am I doing something wrong?

Love to hear ideas on where we can take a group without being treated like a group. For example, would love to go back to slanted door, but the prix fixe isn't ideal. We're early 40s, fun group, not all of us are foodies, but we all enjoy a good time. Budget isn't that sensitive for most of us, but as organizer I don't want to blow the lid every night. Also would love to hear of any suggestions for after dinner drinks. We're staying at the Fairmont, and we'll either cab around or use our Muni passes on the street cars for the tourist vibe. We're in SF for dinner Thurs through Sat.

thx

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  1. Don't strictly rely on Opentable for reservations. Often times you can call the restaurant directly and get a time that does not appear on Opentable, as not all slots are necessarily posted online.

    1. Search for tables for two, then call the restaurants.

      34 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Thx Robert and Scott. I just talked to Slanted Door and have a reservation for the Saturday night. Unfortunately, groups there get stuck with the price fix, but I knew that going in thx to the board here. Left a message for A16 for thanksgiving night. My thinking was SD might be a little more exciting on a Saturday, whereas A16 we may not miss as much. I'm happy to be corrected, or field better suggestions although I think SD will be a good fit for our group.

        So I was thinking about a Mission taco crawl Friday night just to maybe break up the monotomy of 10 people eating a sit down 3 nights in a row. I've never been down there, is this a good idea? We're relatively adventurous, out for a good time.

        thx.

        1. re: canaxer

          The Mission is pretty dirty and during some evenings can be full of drunk 20 somethings, which isn't my idea of fun. However, Thanksgiving weekend tends to be quiet, so give the taco crawl a go. Also some good cocktail spots there, like Elixir.

          Also a good thread for a crawl - Chinatown food/tour:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/922195

          1. re: bobabear

            Thanks bobabear. Any thoughts on a back up place in the area if the Mission is a little gritty for the group's tastes? This would have be a place we could walk into, as I wouldn't want to no show on a reservation. Beggars can't be choosers, so maybe someplace fun/casual?

            1. re: canaxer

              Depending on how deep in the Mission you are (Elixir is 16th & Guerrero), you could walk about a mile (fairly flat ~15m) to Hayes Valley. Definitely not gritty. Lots of options for food, drink, boutiques (depending on time of day, they may be closed).

              If you go over there, you can choose from a multitude of places that are typically less busy on Thanksgiving weekend, but here are my cocktail recommendations:

              Absinthe - good cocktails, people say food has gone downhill, so don't do that. Can stand at nice bar, or try to get a few small tables in bar area for all 10 of you (that may be harder).

              Two Sisters Books & Bar - great cocktails, cash only, serves some small plates earlier in the night.

              Some more recommendations on cocktails in Hayes Valley here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9113...

              Tons of great threads on Hayes Valley eating:
              http://www.chow.com/search?q=hayes+va...

              I might actually say you'd enjoy HV more than Mission. It's slightly older crowd and not gross :)

              1. re: bobabear

                Hayes is actually pretty limited for food options. It's not like they're all going to fit in Bar Jules. Even Two Sisters would be a squeeze.

          2. re: canaxer

            The group price fixe at Slanted Door is fine. I did it with a big group a couple of years ago. Don't stay away because of that.
            And it's a fun spot for out of towners, you'll be right at the water and can view the bridge before or after. I think it's a nice pick.

            I also think the Mission taco crawl is a good idea. You're doing great. That night, since you are staying at the Fairmont, you could meet at the Tonga Room for a first drink before you set out. Touristy in a good way. Everyone gets a mai tai or such, watches the rain storm, and out you go all in the proper mindset.

            The third night I think you should go somewhere special. Maybe La Folie? I know they could handle you in the back private dining room but I believe that costs extra, or maybe it just has a minimum that you'd probably hit.. Not sure whether they can do 10 in the main room. I'd call and ask.

            Other options:
            Nihon Whiskey Lounge (Japanese). I've had a birthday dinner there for 12 people and they handled it quite well.
            If you go this route, write back and I can recommend things to order

            El Mansour. This is a moroccan place that's only medium good, but it's fun for a group or a party. Tentlike atmosphere, belly dancers, that sort of thing.

            1. re: pauliface

              thx for the comments pauliface. Tonga room is a good idea, i'm sure we'll hit it at least once (we stayed at the Fairmont a few years ago and went there). Have to pass on La Folie, I think the group might want something with a bit more action, more ala SD. Nihon looks cool, but already got the asian night covered with SD. El Mansour looks intriguing, researching...

              Itinerary so far:

              Wed night: arrive at 9pm, seems like their some good places near the Fairmont to hit for a drink before bed.

              Thurs: some exploring around the usual places in the city. Still looking for dinner spot, El Mansour? LaCiccia?

              Fri: GreatPacific Tours picking us up for a Napa visit. Still working on details. Dinner is Mission taco crawl?

              Sat: Renting some bikes and hitting Fish, then ferry back from Tiburon. Maybe go to Alcatraz as well. Saturday dinner at Slanted Door.

              1. re: canaxer

                I wouldn't go to La Ciccia with a party of ten.

                AQ's good at handling groups.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  If AQ is good for a group, I might take your party there over El Mansour, even though I personally prefer El Mansour.

                  Many many on this list love AQ, and it's very 'current SF'.
                  I think they are a little pretentious and expensive. But even with that, I've been twice and each time there were a couple of fantastic dishes, both times from the appetizer section. (Things fell apart for me with mains and dessert) If you do go, order anything that features an interesting sounding grain like barley as a key ingredient.

                  AQ is more sophisticated and buzzy than El Mansour. El Mansour, though, is comfortable and fun.

                  And, while I'm critical of the food at AQ, it's probably in a higher league than El Mansour. However, I like El Mansour because it succeeds on its own terms; they are not aiming for the kind of high dining that AQ seeks.

                  Does that make sense?

                  1. re: pauliface

                    pauliface, that made perfect sense. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that AQ is open during Tgiving, nov 28 is not a booking option on their site. I left a vm 3 hours ago and just tried them again, no call back. Just called Mansour, they aren't open for thanksgiving either. Arghh...

                    1. re: canaxer

                      Amost all restaurants are closed on Thanksgiving itself. Here's a discussion of which are open:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/920691

                      AQ is open the other days.

                2. re: canaxer

                  LaCiccia is closed the week of Thanksgiving as well.

                  Are you planning any lunches? I'd suggest Zuni Cafe for lunch, then pop over to:
                  - The Mission near Dolores Park for Bar Tartine pastries/coffee or Bi Rite for ice cream (maybe not if it's too cold out)
                  - Hayes Valley for macarons (Chantal Guillon), pastries (a few diff places for that), coffee (Blue Bottle), general strolling through neighborhood
                  - If Hayes, then you can also walk up to Alamo Square for the view

                  I don't mean to keep suggesting Hayes Valley, it's just near places that I'd eat :)

                  1. re: bobabear

                    Thanks for the thoughts bobabear. As you can see above, having trouble on tgiving night dinner. I feel like I need to get some dinner reservations locked away before I can move on. As for lunches, I'm going to try and suggest some places to people based on my suggested itineraries for their day excursions on Thursday and Saturday. We all are friends and like each other, but we're not going to roam around as a pack of 10 for 3 days, couples need some space. That being said, the ball is in my court to plan that stuff and then ask you guys where a good place to go is based on locale. Feeling the pressure to get dinner locked away, and the wine excursion as well (see my post a couple above).

                    1. re: canaxer

                      I'm clueless about Toronto, so perhaps you have a fantastic Chinatown... But some Chinese places would be open on Thanksgiving. A bit more upscale than a Chinatown place would be Hong Kong Lounge for dinner. I really enjoy their set menus for 4-8 people and the food is very much Cantonese with some Western influence.

                      1. re: bobabear

                        Hello to a fellow Canuck visitor to SF! I used to live in Toronto so I'm guessing you don't want to do Canto on your mystery trip and I know you said you've covered Asian with your SD reso. However, given the dearth of options open on T-day, may I suggest Burmese or Lao? Both are well represented in the Bay Area, not so much in TO from my recent research for trips back east, and different enough from other Asian/Southeast Asian cuisines. And I'm thinking they might be open when you need 'em!

                        1. re: grayelf

                          Well, we live in Oakville to be exact, which doesn't have very many good Chinese restaurants. When we go to T.O. we typically don't hit Chinatown. My wife has us booked for ZY & RG Lounge for Thursday night, it has been impossible to get non-Asian that night, we've worked our list pretty hard. A couple places we were looking at were open, but couldn't do the group of 10.

                          We are now re-thinking our choice of SD Saturday.

                          1. re: canaxer

                            Are you willing to take BART to Oakland or Berkeley? If so, it might open up further options for Saturday to replace Slanted Door. Duende is right by the 19th Street BART stop and might work; there are also some good options in Rockridge. Box & Bells is open now and is a large enough space that they might be able to accommodate a group--I haven't been yet. There's Oliveto, too. Also Comal in downtown Berkeley, which will let you reserve for 5:30 (although I don't know if there's a limit on group size). There are obviously other choices too, some in neighborhoods less BART friendly (like Jack London Square) so not as easy to get to from SF.

                            1. re: BAnders

                              Thx for the thought BAnders, but I think we'll stick to reasonable cab or cable car distance. I don't want to schlep them on the BART, seems a bit excessive, there's got to be enough decent options in SF?

                            2. re: canaxer

                              RG probably isn't going to wow you guys. Only some of the dishes are above average (the crab, etc.), otherwise it's pretty no thrills and greasy.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                Man, was afraid of that. Well, I'd go back to the drawing board, but I'm out of ideas.

                3. re: canaxer

                  the mission now sports a Marina-like taco place called tacolicious. most of the mission is not dirty and certainly has more to offer than drunk 20-somethings. like, some of the best restaurants in the City. i'd say far from gross unless you're hanging out at 16th and Mission Bart.

                  so if you want a "taco-crawl" but don't want to get dirty - maybe check this place out. i can't vouch for it, as it's a little too scene-y for me, but i think they could certainly accommodate a large party. http://tacolicious.com/

                  however, if the Tonga room is what floats your boat, maybe the Mission really isn't for you, and you'd best listen to bobabear. and i'm not being snarky, honest.

                  1. re: mariacarmen

                    Maria, I get your drift. Tonga room will be a one and done for us, just to show them the room really. I think the Mission is still in the works for the Friday.

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      Yeah, the no-reservations wait on a Friday night for Tacolicious is gonna be 1-2 hours, and it's way crowded and loud. End scene! :-)

                      Do a search for "taco crawl" and you'll find lots of recommendations. Taqueria Vallarta (lots of options, the pork neck is a recent favorite) and Taqueria San Jose (al pastor) are large/empty enough to accomodate a crowd.

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        Taqueria San Jose does great al pastor and chorizo tacos. Right next door to the 24th St. BART station.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          and they have sangria and wine! too bad it's so brightly lit. but those al pastor tacos are the best.

                        2. re: hyperbowler

                          If you do a taco crawl, you will also need some good bars on the route.

                          I am not really up on the hippest bestest modern mixologists.
                          The ones in my list are more classic older style that have been around a few years.
                          I like:

                          500 club (on the north side of things, a little to the west, a good place to begin if you are going from north to south)
                          Doc's Clock
                          Laszlo (next to foreign cinema).

                          1. re: pauliface

                            500 Club is an outright dive with a great old sign. Not exactly a tourist destination unless you like that sort of thing.

                            I would suggest Lolinda for cocktails in the Mission with a group that size.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              500 Club has 3 things going for it:
                              [1] It is a beautiful old dive bar. Not just the sign; the interior is classic.
                              [2] It is not particularly 'in' and therefore easy to get in and get a drink without much fuss.
                              [3] It is at the northernmost point of area in question and therefore a good place to begin.

                              I am not familiar with Lolinda.
                              It appears to be next door to where Medjool used to be (I loved their roof deck.) Does anybody know what's happening to/at that space?

                              I'm not familar with many of the newer spots but I *did* try Trick Dog over the summer and thought it was fantastic. Great great drinks...

                                1. re: pauliface

                                  By description, I'd think you were talking about Homestead or Shotwell's not 500 Club. Both are old, and uniquely San Francisco.

                                  500 has karaoke nights.

                                  As for it being "Northernmost", that's arbirtrary. Dolores Park, Elixir, Bi-Rite, etc. could all be considered "Northernmost".

                                2. re: sugartoof

                                  That looks pretty good sugartoof. Tempted to book it for a late dinner? Have a stroll around first, snack on a taco/drink or two elsewhere and then head to Lolinda?

                                  1. re: canaxer

                                    I think you'll enjoy that. The space can handle groups, and the menu is set up for really varied portion sizes so you don't have to sit for a full dinner.

                                    Trick Dog isn't far away, and they make some of the more acclaimed creative cocktails right now, but it gets crowded. Going before 7 might be an option.

                                  2. re: sugartoof

                                    or El Techo, upstairs - tho I think it would be super crowded on a Friday night, with the annoying people downstairs trying to create even more of a scene by letting only a few in at a time.

                                    Laszlo's is a good call, though. if you get there early enough you can snag a few tables/chairs and pull them together, and they serve the full Foreign Cinema (menu) next door in the bar. it's great - you get a slightly divey bar experience with good food.

                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                      The day after Thanksgiving is a slow night at some places.

                        3. As you now know, you're unlikely to find a booking for 10 people online, but tables of 4 should be available. Breaking up the group at a nice restaurant might offer a good breather, and allow you to pick based on food alone. Bookings around the holiday do start to get weird, as you'll find the start of holiday office parties, families in town, private parties/benefits, and so on. In any case, I would avoid the typical "good for groups" suggestions as much as possible. You might have to be flexible on times though.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: sugartoof

                            Following up on this post after reading your one above on RG. I think we're going to try this today, let you guys know what we book. This would allow us to leave SD for Saturday which my wife would prefer to do. Happy wife...

                            1. re: canaxer

                              You said you don't get to Chinese restaurants much, so if you order the signature dishes, R&G or Z&Y would probably be great. The food at either of those places is pretty radically unlike what you'll get at Slanted Door. And local Dungeness crab season should be in full swing.

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/800015
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/396992
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8958...

                              On Thanksgiving Thursday, most of the great restaurants that are open are Asian, and the exceptions are probably in large measure booked up already.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Why would you have to eat Asian on Thanksgiving? It's not Christmas. Is the OP trying to avoid turkey, or something like that?

                                Otherwise, plenty of places will offer a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. A lot of families go out in big groups, and reservations are known to fluctuate up until the last minute. The trick is finding good food rather than some canned gravy, and lukewarm buffet. Many places even offer options for people who dislike turkey.

                                1. re: sugartoof

                                  Can you recommend any specific great non-Asian places that are open on Thanksgiving and can handle a party of ten?

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    For Chinese I'd chime in with my current favorite, New Woey Guey Loey. I prefer them to R&G. Been to each twice, and R&G was some time ago. I have not tried crab at Woey Guey Loey but their lobster with black bean sauce was unbelievable and definitely chow-worthy.

                                    For non-Asian, well, opentable is showing Poesia. I consider Poesia excellent neighborhood fare -- would not necessarily travel for it as a destination -- but it is a welcoming cozy place with solid food and excellent homemade pasta. Based on what I currently see on OpenTable for 10 people on thanksgiving, that would be my pick from among things I know about...

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Plenty of places open on Thanksgiving for groups.

                                      ....unless as we've learned from the OP, you don't want a Thanksgiving.

                                      Try Bourbon Steak, Chapeau, RN74, Michael Mina, Roka Akor, Zare', Campton Place, House of Prime Rib. The question will be if they're offering regular menu entrees.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        It's been a few years, but we ate at House of Prime Rib for Thanksgiving, and my recollection is that they served their regular menu. And really good martinis.

                                    2. re: sugartoof

                                      Yah, don't want to eat Turkey, we Canadians do that in October. If anyone can answer Robert's question below I'm ready to give them a call...

                              2. canaxer-

                                I was going to suggest that you eat at the City Hotel Restaurant in Columbia. The food is very good, and the restaurant is run by a local culinary school. Sadly, I checked, and they are not serving dinner tonight. They are open for dinner on 11/1/13 if you are still in Columbia tomorrow night.
                                If you happen to be staying in the City Hotel, you may find some goblins there (as one of the rooms is supposedly haunted).

                                Enjoy,

                                boopa

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: boopa

                                  I think you're confusing canaxer and Thanksgiving with OliverB and Halloween?

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/920503

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Robert-

                                    Yup, you caught me.

                                    Thanks,

                                    boopa

                                2. Searching OpenTable for availability for a party of ten is going to miss a lot of options, but skimming the list for that Saturday there are a lot of decent choices:

                                  1300 (Southern)
                                  A La Turca
                                  Alamo Square Seafood
                                  Ame (Cal-French-Japanese)
                                  B44 (Catalan)
                                  Gajalee (Karnatakan, Keralan / Goan)
                                  Hayes Street Grill (seafood, particularly charcoal-grilled fish)
                                  Maykadeh (Persian)
                                  Poquito (Ecuadorean / pan-Latin)

                                  Some additional places not on OpenTable worth calling:

                                  Bar Jules
                                  Delfina
                                  Incanto
                                  Izakaya Yuzuki

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Wouldn't bother calling Delfina or Bar Jules with a group of 10.
                                    Places are tiny.

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      They can both handle groups that size. Maybe not at all hours on all days but it's worth calling.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Bar Jules has 38 seats total including the bar. Good luck.

                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                          There was a big group when I was there. If they're usually slow after TG they'd probably be happy to have a party of ten.

                                  2. Consider the Burritt Room for drinks and light food perhaps before or after dinner. It's on the second floor of the Mystic Hotel right in Union Square but has old time charm and a great cocktail program (esp punch bowls). I've been there for a birthday party, and there are small lounges that you can reserve in advance for groups. Since I last went, they have opened the Burritt Tavern for food (can't vouch for it) but should be open for TD at least because of its hotel affinity.

                                    Another option that could be fun for a group is Ryoko (also nr Union Square) for sushi. It has a basement den vibe, fish flown in from Japan, and a "mama" hostess whose job it seems to be to keep your glass filled.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: rubadubgdub

                                      thx rubadubgdub, had Burritt on my list of local (to the Fairmont) places for a drink. Ryoko looks like fun, definitely hope to make there at the end of a night.